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’Tis the season to play it safe

Stepped-up law enforcement will usher in holiday season

POSTED: January 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Gainesville Police Sgt. Dean Staples calls December "the deadliest time of the year" on local roads.

It's a time when holiday parties and their festivities can mean more drunk driving accidents, more injuries and more deaths than any other time, officials say.

"We really do see wrecks increase all during the month," Staples said. "Fatalities increase, too."

Gainesville police, Hall Sheriff's officials and the Georgia State Patrol plan on stepping up traffic enforcement efforts as the Christmas and New Years travel periods bring 2008 to a close, with hopes of preventing some dire predictions from coming true.

The State Patrol estimates 25 people will die on Georgia roads during the 78-hour Christmas holiday period, which began Friday at 6 p.m. and lasts until midnight Tuesday. That's three more deaths than last Christmas, when there were 2,482 crashes statewide with 1,107 injuries.

Staples said Gainesville police will conduct "concentrated patrols," during which designated traffic officers would devote their time to looking out for impaired drivers and other infractions on the road rather than answering calls for service.

"We found they're more effective when they're on the move," Staples said.

Hall sheriff's deputies have similar plans, Maj. Jeff Strickland said.

"The traffic unit has been out in force looking for DUI drivers throughout the entire holiday season," Strickland said.

The state patrol began the holiday weekend with its headlights on Friday, in what it calls "Lights on For Life Day."

"(It's) to increase awareness of the dangers posed by people who drink and drive," Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Bill Hitchens said in a release.

Operation CARE, or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, is also part of this holiday's enforcement efforts.

"No matter where you travel this weekend, state troopers and state police officers will be conducting high-visibility patrols to increase driver awareness and reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic crashes across the country," Hitchens said.

Georgia roads are expected to be full of travelers.

About 1.7 million Georgians will travel 50 or more miles by car during the Christmas and New Year's holiday travel periods, a slight increase over 2006, according to AAA Auto Club South. That's despite an average increase of 70 cents per gallon for gasoline over last year.

"Although the cost of travel is up significantly, we do not believe those costs will discourage very many," AAA Auto Club South spokesman Kevin Bakewell said.




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